Solomon Islands switches recognition from Taiwan to China

Beijing restricts Taipei's international space as part of a broader coercive campaign

Adam Ni, China researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney.

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The Solomon Islands just switched recognition from Taiwan to China. China’s increasing influence in the Pacific and its aid and investment inducements were the reason behind this.

There are two aspects to this development: China’s growing interests and power around the world, including in the Pacific; and Beijing’s campaign to pressure Taiwan away from moving towards independence by restricting its international space.

First, today China is featuring more prominently in the Pacific and Carribean with increasing investments, aid, trade and tourists than any time in history. This is a natural outcome of China’s increasing interaction with the world. For many small countries, including in the Pacific, China is an indispensable partner, one that beckons with opportunities and promises. This latest development should be seen in that context.

Second, in recent years China has initiated a broad campaign to deter Taiwan from independence and force it towards political “reunification” with China. One part of this campaign is to restrict Taiwan’s international space by limiting its international representation, legitimacy, and participation. Inducing Taiwan’s small pool of diplomat allies to switch sides is a part of this broader strategy.

Other elements of this campaign include military posturing, economic measures, united front activities to influence Taiwan’s internal politics, and propaganda and psychological operations.

Why has China stepped up its efforts against Taiwan in recent years?

  1. China has growing confidence in its ability to impose its will on Taiwan, and to effectively deter US and allied intervention in a contingency;

  2. The Chinese Communist Party sees that the window for “reunification” is closing as Taiwan’s younger generation is developing stronger local identity.

  3. For Xi Jinping, successful “reunification” is seen as a potential legacy, one that could make him greater than Mao in the Party pantheon.